Norodom Sihanouk Biography

(Former Ruler of Cambodia)

Birthday: October 31, 1922 (Scorpio)

Born In: Royal Palace, Phnom Penh

Norodom Sihanouk was appointed the King of Cambodia when he was merely nineteen years old. He remained the ruler of the nation for fourteen years, interspersed with brief but frequent spells as Prime Minister. According to the 'Guinness Book of World Records', this former ruler is the only politician to have been appointed in the most number of political offices. After fourteen years of reign, he abdicated the throne, and his father, Suramarit took over as the king. After his father's death, Norodom once again became the Prime MInister. For five years in between, military general Lon Nol ruled after having deposed the existing rule. Helped by political party 'Khmer Rouge', Sihanouk won back his kingdom, and became the head-of-state. However, he was only a puppet in the hands of the communist leader Pol Pot. After Pol Pot was deposed by the Vietnamese army, the Cambodian King had to face another round of political struggle. His reign was marked by political turmoil, with different countries and organizations taking over Cambodia. However, with the goal of achieving independence for his nation, and the ambition of remaining the king, this ruler did everything possible to establish his reign. Till his death, this king was popular amongst Cambodian citizens, for his nationalist cause, and is revered even now
Quick Facts

Died At Age: 89


Spouse/Ex-: Mam Manivan Phanivong, Norodom Monineath, Norodom Thavet Norleak, Phat Kanhol, Sisowath Monikessan, Sisowath Pongsanmoni

father: Norodom Suramarit

mother: Sisowath Kossamak

children: Norodom Arunrasmy, Norodom Buppha Devi, Norodom Chakrapong, Norodom Narindrapong, Norodom Ranariddh, Norodom Sihamoni, Norodom Yuvaneath

Emperors & Kings Prime Ministers

Died on: October 15, 2012

place of death: Beijing

Founder/Co-Founder: Funcinpec Party, Royal University of Agriculture, Cambodia

  • 1

    What was Norodom Sihanouk's role in Cambodian politics?

    Norodom Sihanouk served as the King of Cambodia twice and also as the Prime Minister and Head of State at various points in his political career.
  • 2

    How did Norodom Sihanouk contribute to Cambodia's independence?

    Norodom Sihanouk played a key role in negotiating Cambodia's independence from French colonial rule in 1953.
  • 3

    What was Norodom Sihanouk's stance during the Vietnam War?

    Norodom Sihanouk pursued a policy of neutrality during the Vietnam War, seeking to keep Cambodia out of the conflict.
  • 4

    What was Norodom Sihanouk's relationship with the Khmer Rouge?

    Norodom Sihanouk initially allied with the Khmer Rouge but later became their prisoner during their brutal rule in Cambodia.
  • 5

    How did Norodom Sihanouk's political career end?

    Norodom Sihanouk was forced to abdicate the throne in 2004 due to health reasons, ending his long and influential political career.
Childhood & Early Life
Norodom Sihanouk was born to King Norodom Suramarit and his wife, Queen Sisowath Kossamak in Cambodia on October 31, 1922.
The young boy was educated at a school in the city of Phnom Penh, and then at 'Lycée Chasseloup Laubat' at Ho Chi Minh City. He later pursued his military training from the ‘Armoured Cavalry Branch Training School’ in the Saumur commune of Western France.
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Accession & Reign
On April 25, 1941, Sihanouk was declared the King of Cambodia, after King Sisowath Monivong, his grandfather, died.
The Empire of Japan overthrew the French administration in Cambodia on March 9, 1945, and urged the young King of the nation to declare independence. The twenty-two year old ruler was forced to do so, and was appointed the first Prime Minister of Cambodia nine days later.
On August 14, 1945, the foreign minister Son Ngoc Thanh was made the Prime Minister of Cambodia, by the Japanese invaders, but Thanh remained in office only for two months.
Norodom took over Yem Sambaur as Prime Minister of Cambodia, on April 28, 1950, acting in the capacity for a month. Two years later, he was re-elected, this time remaining in office for a longer period of time.
On November 9, 1953, Cambodia gained independence from France, and Sihanouk's effective administration as the king, started.
In 1955, the young king formed the political organization 'Sangkum Reastr Niyum', and gave up his throne for his father. In September, the former became Prime Minister of the nation, after winning a majority of votes at the parliamentary elections.
With intermittent spells as the prime minister, he was declared the head-of-state in the 1960 general elections, after his father passed away. The ruler was given the title of Prince, and three years later, he modified the constitution in a way that made him the head-of-state till his death.
In 1965, he signed a treaty with the People's Republic of China as well as with North Vietnam, allowing military transactions between Vietnam and China to take place through Cambodia. In return, the Chinese would have to buy rice from Cambodia at high prices.
During this time, the king advocated communism and suggested that the nation follow the ideals of Maoism. He also built a close relationship with Kim Il-sung, the leader of North Korea, both condemning the foreign policies followed by the U.S. in Asia.
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In 1970, the 'Sangkum Reastr Niyum' party was disbanded, and thus Norodom ceased to be its leader.
On March 18, 1970, the National Assembly along with military general Lon Nol ousted Sihanouk, and took over the administration of Cambodia. This happened when the deposed King was on a trip to Moscow, Russia, and he was forced to escape to Beijing in China.
In Beijing, this leader in exile established the 'National United Front of Kampuchea', an organization that collaborated with the 'Communist Party of Kampuchea', commonly known as 'Khmer Rouge'. The aim of the political organization was to bring an end to the administration of Cambodian Prime Minister Lon Nol.
In 1975, the 'Khmer Rouge' was able to capture Phnom Penh, and depose Lon Nol. While, Communist leader Pol Pot took actual control of the administration, Norodom was officially named the head-of-state of Cambodia.
The next year, the popular head-of-state was forced by the 'Khmer Rouge' to retire. In 1978, the 'Khmer Rouge' administration was ousted by the Vietnamese invasion, and Cambodian politician Heng Samrin, representing the 'People's Republic of Kampuchea', was made the head-of-state.
Sihanouk opposed this move and by 1982 he was appointed the President of the 'Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea'. The government-in-exile comprised of 'Armée Nationale Sihanoukiste', formed by Norodom himself, 'Khmer People's National Liberation Front', belonging to political leader Son Sann, and the 'Khmer Rouge'.
In 1989, the Vietnamese government left Cambodia, making political leader Hun Sen the representative of the 'People's Republic of Kampuchea ' party.
By 1991, the 'People's Republic of Kampuchea' and the 'Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea' signed a peace treaty in Paris, and Norodom's exile ended with the agreement.
Sihanouk was once more chosen as the King of Cambodia in 1993, but owing to health ailments, he spent more time in China.
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In 2004, the King of Cambodia moved to Pyongyang in North Korea and gave up his throne. Cambodian politician Chea Sim acted as head-of-state till Sihamoni, Sihanouk's son, was appointed the King, the following year.
This popular king had delivered several speeches during his lifetime, in Cambodia as well as in foreign states like San Francisco, New York, Nottingham, Auckland and Hamburg.
Major Works
This brilliant ruler of Cambodia was known for his fight for Cambodian independence, first from the French, then from the Japanese and eventually from Vietnam. He had formed several political organizations like 'Sangkum Reastr Niyum' and the 'National United Front of Kampuchea', to achieve this goal.
Awards & Achievements
In 1956, the Republic of Philippines declared Norodom the 'Raja of the Order of Sikatuna'.
The same year, the Spanish government awarded this former King of Cambodia with one of their highest honours, the 'Grand Cross of the Order of Military Merit'.
After his reign came to an end in 2004, this revered ruler was given the title of ‘Preah Karuna Preah Bat Sâmdach Preah Norodom Sihanouk Preahmâhaviraksat’. It means 'His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk the Great Heroic King King-Father of Khmer independence, territorial integrity and national unity'.
Personal Life & Legacy
This King was known to have had several wives, but he had legally married Princess Samdech Norleak and Paule Monique Izzi, both in 1955. His son Sihamoni, by Monique Izzi, is currently the King of Cambodia.
The famous ruler was a passionate filmmaker, having made movies like 'See Angkor and Die', 'The Last Days of Colonel Savath', and famous documentaries like 'Cortège Royal'.
Since 2005, he had been sick with B-Cell Lymphoma in his stomach, and also suffered from hypertension as well as diabetes.
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This former King of Cambodia succumbed to a heart attack on October 15, 2012, in Beijing. His funeral was held at the Royal Palace in his homeland, and state flags were flown at half-staff as a mark of respect.
Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of United Nations, commemorated this ruler, lauding him for his contribution to his country's nationalist movement.
After his death, the 'National Television of Kampuchea' constantly aired a documentary based on his life.
According to news reports, more than 1,200,000 citizens had gathered near the Royal Palace to pay tribute to the deceased King. Posthumously, he was given the title of 'Preah Karuna Preah Norodom Sihanouk Preah Borom Ratanakkot' (The King who lies in the Diamond Urn).
Distinguished personalities who attended his cremation service were French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam, and US ambassador to Cambodia William E. Todd, amongst others.
On October 11, 2013, a statue of the former King was unveiled in Phnom Penh by Prime Minister Hun Sen. Subsequently October 15 was declared a public holiday, as a symbol of respect.
Facts About Norodom Sihanouk
Norodom Sihanouk was not only a skilled politician but also a talented filmmaker, directing several movies during his lifetime.
He was known for his love of music and often composed his own songs, showcasing his artistic side beyond politics.
Sihanouk was fluent in multiple languages, including French, English, and Chinese, demonstrating his intellectual prowess.
Despite his royal status, he was known for his down-to-earth demeanor and approachability, making him a beloved figure among the Cambodian people.
Sihanouk had a passion for gardening and spent much of his free time tending to the plants and flowers in his royal gardens, showing a more peaceful and personal side to his character.
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